At the socially distant wedding of my younger cousin on Sunday, there was a part of the Mass where the names of loved ones who have died were read aloud and prayed for in a special way. Hearing the name of my grandfather, Frank Brigante Sr. and my grandmother, Eleanor Brigante, brought tears to my eyes. The Ave Maria played shortly after, which didn't help the crying.
My grandfather, "Grandy", died in 1999 and my Grandma in 2015. Hearing their names said aloud at this occasion was so striking. It made me think how names are so special and hold so much in them- to hear the name of my Grandy who's been gone for over 20 years- it just brought him right back in my memory so clearly.
The other night, my daughter Megan was rather emotional at bedtime. One of the things that was making her teary was she never got to meet Grandy. Megan is extremely close with my mom, Grandy's daughter. I told Megan that in a way, she has gotten to know Grandy because Naya (what Megan calls my mom) is so much like him. She has his endless patience and kindness. I told her that Grandy and GG (my Grandma) are part of Naya and they live on through her. Maybe hard for a 7 year old (or a 41 year old) to fully understand, but I think true.
During the wedding toasts, all the kind things were said about my cousin. He's younger than me and we haven't stayed that close through the years, but hearing people describe him as selfless, kind, and loving made me feel so proud. It made me think of the legacy my grandparents began when they got married and started a family. How all of us are connected through them and how they would be so proud of us.
My grandparents' memory is a blessing. They always showed up. They were full of fun and laughter. They created traditions for us and were a part of all my biggest moments through my childhood and teenage years. I was lucky to have my grandmother through my own wedding and both of my children being born. When I think of them, I feel like I'm being embraced. It's a soft blanket, cozy feeling.
And so I go forward and live in a way that might inspire someone, someday to remember me as a blessing too.
It's the National Day On Writing and I am showing up. Thanks to Lester Laminack who shared Lucy Calkins Closing Remarks from last weekend's Saturday Reunion. I share it here, in case you missed it live as I did. It is worth the watch.
Lucy talks about the need to show up- not to be perfect or great but just to show up. She talks of teachers so often not seeing the fruits of their labor....planting seeds and not getting to see the harvest. But we plant anyway.
I know not everyone is a Lucy fan, but the lady can write. Her words were thoughtful, passionate, personal, inspiring. Her husband's last words uttered to his children who traveled to see him: "You came."
On the National Day on Writing, I stop here to say how writing is a gift. How it allows us to hold moments and share stories, to discover our thinking, to share our ideas. I'm grateful for writing. I'm grateful for books with unforgettable characters and speeches that stir my soul. I am grateful for notes from students and cards from friends. I am grateful for texts and emails and messages. I am grateful for words.
Also, I am grateful to be in a community such as this one, with other educators who value writing and humanity and showing up.
If you told me last October that I would be ordering low sodium cookbooks and books about cavapoo dogs, I would have laughed. I don't have a problem with sodium and we aren't ever getting a dog.
Except now I do and now we are! As we know, a lot can change in a year. A lot can change in a moment.
Last week I wrote about my issues with vertigo in September and all the doctor's appointments I've had. I haven't had another episode (please knock on wood somewhere) in a few weeks now. I've been changing my diet in the hopes that it will keep the issue at bay. This means much lower sodium than I was eating, low sugar, no caffeine and no alcohol. So while I wouldn't be the most fun to go out with right now, these changes are well worth it if they keep me feeling better.
And the cavapoo.....
My children have always wanted a dog. My niece and nephew have two dogs- one they just got in May during quarantine. Alex and Megan would talk about those dogs all day long. They are both very loving and would be good to a dog. Megan told me that when they do the "All About Me" posters at school, every year she has to write "0" for how many pets she has. Out of all the things they've asked for that so many other kids seem to have- including a pool- a dog seemed like something that maybe we could do. But still, I didn't want the work or responsibility of a dog.
When the school year started, my son's friend had a cavapoo puppy who would come to school at the end of the day when the children dismissed. Alex fell in love with Sweet Ginger. When I saw her pictures, I did too. We started researching the cavapoo breed- they are a mix of King Charles Cavalier and Poodle. Very friendly dogs, known to be a good choice for first time pet owners. Both kids started the daily begging for the dog- teaming up and being very persuasive.
Something in my heart shifted and I felt like all the work would be worth it to make them happy.
Our puppy is too young to come home yet but later this fall, the newest member of the family, Teddy Graham Sokolowski will be arriving. And there will be stories to tell.....
Wearing a face mask and headphones, I went into the MRI machine Friday morning. I tried to calm the "what if I get stuck in here forever" thoughts and listen to the Billy Joel music streaming faintly through my headphones. Halfway through, the contrast dye was injected into me and I had to reassure the technician that I wasn't nauseous but then worried, "What if I suddenly feel sick in here?" The test was over and now comes the waiting, still waiting, to see if the MRI showed anything that can explain why I've had a few episodes of vertigo over the course of a week. Friends have told me they call you pretty quickly if they see something concerning.
Later the same day, a friend messaged me to tell me to check out a Facebook post from someone we both know and love- from afar. This person was my son's Gymboree teacher when he was a baby. I used to take him to the classes and meet my friend with her baby. The teacher was like sunshine with a beautiful singing voice and a knack for knowing everyone's name the moment she met you. She made us all feel at ease and the experience was always fun. I've followed her on Facebook through the years to see her get married and have two beautiful very young children. Though I haven't seen her in person in probably 9 years, I still feel like I know her well.
The Facebook post revealed her in the hospital, with netting around her head, announcing she has an aggressive cancerous brain tumor. Full stop. What? How? Her children are not yet 4 and 2. She is always doing creative and fun projects with them and cooking special meals for one of her children with food allergies. How can she be facing a cancerous brain tumor? Yesterday she updated her status to say her surgeon pretty much said the tumor will come back and the best she can hope for is 7-10 more years of life. Her surgery to remove the brain tumor is today, so if you are the praying kind, I ask that you keep this very special woman and her family in your heart and prayers.
The news of this young mom's brain tumor on the day I had my own MRI was hard. In the last month, with various health issues at play, I've realized- really realized- how your health is truly everything. And how you just can't take the moments for granted.
Today, my son Alex turns ten. Double digits. A whole decade of being a mom to a boy who has changed my life. The ten years have been made up of huge moments of joy and also some hard times and sad times and scary times- but all the times, I would take. The gift is to be here with him and my family. The privilege of seeing your child grow. And the realization that not everyone is going to get that chance and how horribly sad that is.
Last night, I put the birthday elves out on his chair (I'm sure I've written about our Christmas Elves coming back for birthdays at some point here!) and the Tooth Fairy came for my daughter so there was magic all around last night. As it should be. Grateful for these moments. Praying for many more....for all of us.
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski